Are Catholic Officials in New Orleans Considering Bankruptcy to Avoid Airing Their Secrets?
This morning, attorneys for the Archdiocese of New Orleans were asked by an abuse victim’s attorney if Catholic officials were considering filing for bankruptcy. What such a decision would mean for that survivor, and others, needs to be put into context.
On average, victims of child sexual abuse do not come forward until they are 52 years of age. These survivors have spent decades living in silence and shame for the crimes perpetrated upon them. Yet by the time they are ready to speak up, the criminal Statute of Limitations (SOL) is often long expired, preventing them from holding their perpetrators accountable in court. When this happens, the only recourse that victims have for justice is to sue their abuser, and those who enabled them. A lawsuit not only provides an opportunity for survivors to recover damages for the harm they suffered, but it also allows for information about how institutions covered up for perpetrators, and who those abusers are, to be publicly aired.
If the Archdiocese of New Orleans decides to file for bankruptcy, all that will happen is that secrets will remain secrets, and survivors will again be left out in the cold. In addition, the citizens of New Orleans will not have access to information that they need to protect today's children.
Should the Archdiocese opt for bankruptcy, the public will have another example of its priorities – retaining power, protecting reputations, and saving money. If Catholic officials move forward with the shameful claim that the Archdiocese is "bankrupt," it is another slap in the face of victims, as well as an attempt to deny them compensation for the lifetime of pain and suffering that comes from experiencing sexual violence. More importantly, knowledge that could help to prevent more abuse will remain hidden.
As Catholic officials weigh their decision to declare bankruptcy, we survivors of clergy abuse in the Archdiocese call on Archbishop Gregory Aymond to speak publicly and candidly to the citizens of New Orleans. We also call on District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro to ask Louisiana’s Attorney General to investigate the Catholic Church of Louisiana and seize the secret archives so what Church leaders are hiding can, at the very least, be exposed for all to see.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)